COCLÉ: A presumed spillage of waters containing cyanide from one of the separation tanks at the Molejón gold mine, in the Donoso district (of Panama) run by the Petaquilla Gold company has been reported by its workforce and by Toribio Valdés, ex-representative of the San José del General administrative district.
According to Valdés, the employees said that, between 5pm and 6pm on the afternoon of last Thursday (Aug 12th) the dangerous chemical was spilled and entered into the Molejón river, feeding into the San Juan de Turbe river. Faced with this situation, the workers were evacuated from the Molejón camp number 5, he said.
Valdés said that previously the level of cyanide contaminated waters had spilled over from the tank limits, but on this occasion the containment walls did not resist the overspill and collapsed.
He added that the the construction of the containment walls are of poor quality and there is no “cutting edge technology” as the company claims. “We ask that the governmental institutions investigate, because the company always says these denouncements are false”, said Valdés.
The other version
On the other hand, a source involved with the mining company’s activities who was present at the mine until 3pm yesterday, said that everything was under control and there had not been any spillage.
He said that due to the intense rainfall on the Atlantic coast, the tanks used in the extraction process saw raised levels, but for precautionary measures the company has brought forward the construction of an emergency run-off pond that will probably be ready for use tomorrow Sunday 22nd. “Production was stopped and the risk is under control,” said the source.
He also said that Richard Fifer, President of Petaquilla Gold, and other directors were on site to supervise the work.
Meanwhile, Edy Rosas, secretary general of the Industrial Union for Mining Companies of Panama (Sitraemio) said that the union was in constant communication with the company to ensure that all labour safety laws for mine workers were applied.
Carlos Salazar, spokesperson for Petaquilla Gold, told La Estrella that no rupture of the tanks had occurred, nor that there had been and spillage.
He said that the rumours of possible problems at the mine always rise during the rainy season and attributed the diffusion of these rumour to people that see inexistant dangers in any situation that, in the mining sector, are common and usual.
ANAM to investigate
Authorities of the regional office of ANAM (gov’t environmental bureau) in Coclé said that they were willing to investigate, along with the public ombudsman, whether there had or not been a spillage.